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07/02/19

Social Media and Today’s Teens

iStock Photo/Sports Moms Illustration

FOMO… an acronym unheard of 20 years ago. It stands for Fear of Missing Out and it causes lots of emotional distress for our teens. In my day, maybe you didn’t get the sleepover invitation and your week was filled with dread or maybe you heard all the girls laughing and talking about the fun times they had over the weekend in class. But today, kids can actually see what is going on in real time. They realize they are not present, they were not wanted.

These scenarios can lead to anxiety and depression. In reality, most of what’s posted on social media is fake smiles and an exaggeration of what is really happening. It still hurts when you’re not on the guestlist or group text.

My kids have all had this experience. If they wake up before getting out of bed to check on the status of peers, if they check at meal times and before turning out the light at night, they have a problem. As parents, we need to have conversations reminding them of the illusions of social media. It’s hard because we, as humans, can’t help but compare ourselves to others. Comedian Bill Murray recently stated, “Social media is training us to compare our lives, instead of appreciating everything we are. No wonder why everyone is always depressed.”

Even those at the top of their game can fall victim to not feeling good enough. The recent suicides of purse designer Kate Spade and TV Chef Anthony Bourdain are shocking. From the outside, they seem to have it all, but their internal battles overtook them.

What advice can you give your kids? Remind them to have gratitude and pay attention to the good things in their lives. Have them write those things down. Help them realize the positives and tune into their inner selves. Hug them! Physical touch is an important component of happiness. Researchers say five hugs a day for four weeks increases happiness. Encourage your teen to get up and get moving. Exercise builds self esteem. People who exercise have less depression, anger, stress and distrust.

The green-eyed monster can always be looming, but parents can help keep this beast at bay with support, affection and conversation about what is really important.